The typical contractor of health insurance is not the insured person but his employer. Neither party is free to negotiate the terms of the policy. The employee cannot bargain for a lower premium in exchange for a high deductible or for choosing to be not covered for alcoholism or schizophrenia. The employer is not free to decline coverage for state-mandated medical services. In New York State, for example, the Women’s Wellness Act mandates group health-insurance plans to cover contraceptives including abortifacients, and the Infertility Coverage Act mandates that they cover infertility treatments, including selective fetal reduction (abortion of multiple fetuses conceived by artificial means).
The economic survival of an insurance company depends in large part on collecting more in premiums than it pays out in claims. To bring about that outcome the insurer employs certain methods, some complicated, some very simple. Although embarrassingly obvious, some of these simple measures need to be mentioned because they are absent from what we mislabel “health insurance.” For example, a person cannot buy a policy to protect himself from a loss caused by his own actions, such as burning down his own home. But so-called health insurance protects the individual from the medical consequences of his own actions, for example, injuring himself by smashing his car while drunk. Not surprisingly, all the participants in the complex scheme we call “health insurance” are unhappy with the result.
In the case of genuine insurance, there is a direct relationship between the dollar value of the protection purchased and its cost to the insured. The premium for a life-insurance policy with a face value of $100,000 is less than for a policy for a multiple of that amount. In health insurance no such relationship exists between premium paid and compensation received. Moreover, the health-insurance company, acting on its own behalf, can write a contract with a “cap” on claims, that is, for the maximum amount it will pay the insured, regardless of the health-care cost he incurs. The insured person, who typically does not act on his own behalf but is “provided” insurance as an important part of his job benefit, has no reciprocal options.